Follow us on Twitter Follow us on LinkedIn Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram Visit the TPC Store
Search the site




Coatings Industry News

Main News Page

Paint Makers to Pay $1.1B for Lead

Thursday, December 19, 2013

More items for Coating Materials

Comment | More

Reversing years of legal victories, the Sherwin-Williams Co., NL Industries and ConAgra Grocery Products have been ordered to pay $1.1 billion to remove lead paint from millions of California homes.

"There is a clear and present danger that needs to be addressed," Santa Clara Superior Court Judge James P. Kleinberg wrote in his 114-page landmark ruling, released Monday (Dec. 16), four months after a bench trial.

"The defendants sold lead paint with actual and constructive knowledge that it was harmful."

The judge dismissed claims against co-defendants Atlantic Richfield Company and DuPont in the 13-year-old case.

white lead
Wikimedia Commons

Defendants in the suit include NL Industries, which was known as the National Lead Company until 1971. NL Industries sold its Dutch Boy brand to Sherwin-Williams in 1976. Both companies were ordered to share in clean-up costs.

The parties have 15 days to contest the decision, and a spokeswoman for the companies immediately vowed to do so.

Making Companies Pay

For now, though, the 10 city and county plaintiffs, including the cities of San Diego and San Francisco and Los Angeles County, have succeeded where other jurisdictions have fallen short—in making the companies pay for interior lead-paint abatement in their jurisdictions.

Kleinberg found that the manufacturers “created or assisted in the creation of a public nuisance” by marketing, promoting and profiting from lead-based paint, despite actual or constructive knowledge that it was toxic to children.

The decision rejected various arguments as unconvincing, including contentions that lead paint no longer presented a significant public health threat and that the defendants lacked knowledge about the hazards at the time of sale.

Improving Children’s Lives

“Consistent with their arguments throughout the trial the Defendants rely on statistics and percentages,” the judge wrote.

“When translated into the lives of children, that is not a persuasive position. The Court is convinced there are thousands of California children in the Jurisdictions whose lives can be improved, if not saved through a lead abatement plan.”

The tentative judgment was entered against ConAgra Grocery Products Company (successor of W.P. Fuller & Co.), NL Industries, and Sherwin-Williams.

ARCO and DuPont

On the other hand, the judge found, the plaintiffs failed to make their case against Atlantic Richfield Co. (ARCO) and DuPont.

“The People’s own experts were unable to make the case that ARCO promoted lead paint in the jurisdictions,” Kleinberg said. “At most ARCO promoted paints containing lead for only two years and that was to the trade, not the general public.”

Superior Court of California Santa Clara County

Filed 13 years ago, the matter came before the Santa Clara Superior Court bench July 15 and ended Aug. 22. The defendants say Monday's ruling was "at odds with California law and judicial decisions across the country."

DuPont’s claim was dismissed in part because its interior residential paint products never contained white lead pigments. Moreover, the company did not sell paint in California until 1924 and never manufactured white lead pigments in the state, the decision said.

“It is telling that DuPont distanced itself from other paint companies by its products that were lead-free and used that quality as a key advertising theme,” the judge noted.

Decision ‘at Odds’ with the Law

A spokeswoman for the paint manufacturers, former Iowa Attorney General Bonnie J. Campbell, called the decision “at odds with California law and judicial decisions across the country that have uniformly rejected similar public nuisance claims.”

She said the decision penalized manufacturers for “truthful advertising of lawful products, done at a time when government officials routinely specified those products for use in residential buildings.”

“The decision rewards scofflaw landlords who are responsible for the risk to children from poorly maintained lead paint, and it conflicts with and threatens to upend California's lead poisoning prevention programs, which work,” Campbell said in an emailed statement.

Finally, she said, the ruling is “more likely to hurt children than help them, and it will likely disrupt the sale, rental, and market value of all homes and apartments built before 1978.”

ConAgra Foods issued a separate statement in response to the verdict. 

"We vehemently disagree with the decision and will appeal. We are absolutely not an appropriate defendant," said spokeswoman Lane Friedman. "ConAgra Foods was never even in the paint business. As a food maker who employs thousands of people in California, we believe this case is an unfortunate example of extreme overreach."

Child and suspected lead paint

The court said it was convinced that thousands of children in the jurisdictions were "presently and potentially victimized by" lead.

The defendants plan to file objections with the judge.

“If those are not accepted, we will file a motion for a new trial or mistrial; and if that is rejected, we will appeal the Court’s decision,” Campbell added.

Abatement Order

The order requires the defendants to pay $1.1 billion into a specially designated and restricted abatement fund.

The fund will be administered by the Director of the California Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch program for the benefit of residents within the 10 jurisdictions.

Los Angeles County will receive up to 55 percent of the fund, or $605 million; Santa Clara and Alameda will receive up to $99 million; San Diego and San Francisco, up to $77 million; San Mateo, up to $55 million; Ventura, up to $44 million; and Monterey and Solana, up to $22 million, according to the distribution schedule.

The interior paint abatement plan will end four years after the date the defendants make total payment.

Documents filed electronically in the case may be viewed via the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara website.


Tagged categories: Coating chemistry; DuPont; Formulating; Health and safety; Laws and litigation; Lawsuits; Lead; Lead paint abatement; Sherwin-Williams

Comment Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.

Carboline Company
New product: Carbozinc® 608 HB
Introducing a new high build zinc-rich primer that can save you time and money by eliminating the epoxy intermediate coat!

Jotun Paints Inc.
Jotun Jotachar 1709
Mesh-free passive fire protection epoxy designed to protect against hydrocarbon pool fire scenarios for up to four hours as defined in the ANSI/UL1709 standard.

Novatek Corporation
Dustless Coatings Removal
Novatek Corporation, Dustless Coatings Removal Strip, clean and profile all dust free! Comply with new lead standards. Contact today: (866) 563-7800

Industrial Vacuum Equipment Corp.
Hurricane Vacuums
& Dust Collectors
Vacuum and dust collector hose, filters and related accessories.

New resins from BASF will have metals loving water!
Excellent corrosion resistance, low VOC, high gloss, thin films 800-231-7868

Mitsubishi Gas Chemical America
Performance Amine 1,3-BAC
A highly reactive cycloaliphatic diamine offering superior performance. Reasonable cost and curing efficacy makes it suitable for all types of epoxy resin applications.

Blastox/The TDJ Group, Inc.
Blastox® - One Step Lead Abatement
Sandblast additive delivered to jobsite pre-blended to eliminate hazardous abrasive wastes. Why mix, meter or apply at the job-site? Blast with ease and
Let your painters paint!

ABKaelin, LLC
Programs/Training/Monitoring for Silica, Lead, Noise, Beryllium, Hexavalent Chromium, Cadmium, Hazardous Waste*PM10 & TSP-Lead Ambient Air Monitoring*SSPC C3/C5

CHLOR*RID International Inc.
Companies that invest in corrosion control use CHLOR RID products
  • Soluble salt removal liquid
  • Test kits to verify contamination levels
  • Surface passivation to hold the blast
INFO@CHLOR-RID.COM 800.422.3217

Sauereisen, Inc.
Substrate Repair Materials

Substrate Repair Materials and Filler Compounds

Sauereisen's full line of underlayments are the ideal substrate repair materials to restore structural integrity prior to the application of SewerGard©


Technology Publishing Co., 1501 Reedsdale Street, Suite 2008, Pittsburgh, PA 15233

TEL 1-412-431-8300  • FAX  1-412-431-5428  •  EMAIL

The Technology Publishing Network

Durability + Design PaintSquare the Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings Paint BidTracker

EXPLORE:      JPCL   |   PaintSquare News   |   Interact   |   Buying Guides   |   Webinars   |   Resources   |   Classifieds
REGISTER AND SUBSCRIBE:      Free PaintSquare Registration   |   Subscribe to JPCL   |   Subscribe to PaintSquare News
MORE:      About   |   Privacy Policy   |   Terms & Conditions   |   Support   |   Site Map   |   Search   |   Contact Us